Junior third baseman Michelle Cisco powers C.M. Wright to 3A softball state title

The Baltimore Sun

C. Milton Wright third baseman Michelle Cisco knew her season was complete when she rounded the bases in the sixth inning of the Class 3A softball state championship Saturday against Huntingtown.

The junior's three-run blast Saturday afternoon in College Park produced the final runs in the Mustangs' 6-1 victory.

Cisco, who started the Mustangs' season with a home run that sealed a victory, smiled as her teammates mobbed her at home plate with helmet slaps, hugs and high fives.

A half inning later, the Mustangs again congregated in the infield, jumping and screaming to celebrate the team's first state title since 2006 against the school that ousted them in the semifinals a year prior.

"She clocked that," Mustangs coach Russell Kovach said. "That was great. I could not be prouder of her. In many ways, she could be the MVP of our season."

In the games entering the championship, Cisco wasn't sure she had the power and consistency to anchor the lineup. She had fallen into a slump for much of the season and hit in the ninth spot Saturday.

Her vision at the plate improved last month when — after a few years of questioning whether she needed a trip to the eye doctor — she started wearing contacts.

Cisco also worked with a personal hitting coach. He reminded her to "just focus and watch the ball hit the bat" entering the final few games of C. Milton Wright's season.

It helped her make solid contact in the Mustangs' 5-2 semifinal win over Northeast on Tuesday. She also found a groove in Maryland Stadium, going 2-for-3 with five RBIs.

Two of the runs came on a double down the left-field line in the fourth inning. Then, she drove home catcher Lexi Childress and pinch-hitter Emily Rutowski with her homer in the sixth.

"She is an incredible player and she has improved so much this entire year," C. Milton Wright pitcher Katie Murphy said. "Having her intensity and never giving up, it's just the most amazing feeling, and I'm very proud of her."

Cisco's production gave Murphy a cushion in the circle.

The junior entered the week with a 3.27 ERA in more than 110 innings. In the title game, Murphy tossed seven innings and limited the Hurricanes to five hits, all coming in the first three frames.

Kovach said Murphy pitched through the pain of a lower back injury she's been battling since last summer and was impressed with her stamina. Murphy didn't allow a hit in the final 14 batters.

"She really stepped it up in the second half of the game," Kovach said. "I feel like she was throwing a little faster, had a little bit more zip and movement."

Murphy said her momentum and drive stemmed from the team's focus on last year's playoff loss.

Huntingtown prevailed, 3-2, in the state semifinals, and the Mustangs didn't want to feel the same sting this season. Instead, they vowed to hand the Hurricanes a second consecutive championship game loss.

Murphy knew C .Milton Wright had done enough to raise the trophy when she saw the ball rocket from Cisco's bat in the sixth inning.

"We talked about it probably for the entire week coming up to this game — we wanted to beat them," Cisco said. "They were the team that we knew we had to beat because we just wanted to get back at them from what they did last year."

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